Reducing Dezeen's carbon footprint | Den Creative

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04/11/2021

Reducing Dezeen’s carbon footprint

We’ve been working with Dezeen to shape their site and digital roadmap for the past 7 years. We set out to reduce Dezeen’s carbon footprint by optimising the website’s performance without compromising on the high-quality media assets required for the site.

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5 mins

Dezeen is the world’s most popular and influential architecture, interiors and design magazine, with over three million monthly readers and six million social media followers. Earlier this year, EcoPing; a service that tracks website emissions, revealed the hidden carbon cost of browsing the site. By the nature of its industry, Dezeen is brimming with data-rich content; Over 750,000 high-resolution images, video files and interactive designs have all contributed to a richer browsing experience for its users. But this comes with a hefty carbon toll with each page load – approximately 19.32g of CO2 (10 times the average for a webpage). When extrapolated to account for Dezeen’s traffic in 2020, a year in which they achieved a staggering 110 million page views, the estimated CO2 produced for the year comes to 2.1 billion grams. To put this into perspective, it would require a forest with 96,600 mature trees to sequester the equivalent amount of CO2. It’s equivalent to the emissions generated by flying one person from New York to Amsterdam 3,130 times. 

The challenge

Software on its own doesn’t consume energy or emit any harmful discharge in relation to the environment. The problem lies in the way software is developed for use – and then in the way that it’s used. It runs on hardware and therefore is reliant on machines and the energy used to run them. For a website, data is transferred between the front-end (webpage) and the back-end (server). To retrieve information about a web page, the browser requests information from the server. The server compiles the necessary data routing it back via switches, DNS servers, routers and caches – each step requiring electrical energy to perform a role. The more requests and data transferred, the more energy required to load the web page and the greater its impact on the climate. 

We’ve been working with Dezeen over many years to shape their site and digital roadmap. They set us the challenge of reducing their carbon footprint considerably by optimising the website’s performance, without compromising on the user experience, and the high-quality media assets required. 

Our approach

Working closely with EcoPing, we conducted benchmarking to identify the data-heavy features contributing to the site’s high energy consumption. Speed is inextricably linked to data transfer and carbon emissions. By doing work to benchmark the data transferred with each page load and its speed, we were able to build a clear understanding of where to focus our attention. 

We identified three targets of optimisation: 

  • Media optimisation – reduce the amount of data requested and processed with each page load without compromising on image or video quality
  • Code optimisation – removing obsolete or inefficient code
  • Infrastructure optimisation – ensure back-end systems are performing optimally

Changes were introduced over the course of 12 weeks. 

The outcome

Two weeks after all code changes were implemented, emissions per page fell from 21g to 7.18g, a reduction of 66%. Furthermore, the average page load was reduced to 3.5s, a fall of 58.3%. This dramatically improved the user experience of the site. Although it’s too early to tell with the changes made at Dezeen, the improvements to the user experience as a consequence of the optimisation work carry significant benefits for the business’ bottom line. Research has demonstrated that even an incremental improvement of just 0.1s in page load time can generate significant benefits for conversions, bounce rate, lead generation and site referrals across a range of industries. 

While the code changes implemented have drastically reduced Dezeen’s carbon footprint, there is still work to be done. We will continue to work with Dezeen to ensure the site is continually optimised and sustainable development practices are adopted moving forward.

Interested in finding out how we can help your business cut its carbon emissions? Get in touch here.

Harry Barlow

Product Owner

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